James Fenimore Cooper
Part 8 out of 10
admission: then she allowed the opening to be shut. Her orders
and proceedings now became more calm and rational. But a single
bar was crossed, and Jennie was directed to stand in readiness
to remove even that at any application from a friend. She then
ascended the ladder to the room above, where by means of a loophole
she was enabled to get as good a view of the island as the surrounding
bushes would allow. Admonishing her associate below to be firm
and steady, she made as careful an examination of the environs as
her situation permitted.
To her great surprise, Mabel could not at first see a living soul
on the island, friend or enemy. Neither Frenchman nor Indian was
visible, though a small straggling white cloud that was floating
before the wind told her in which quarter she ought to look for
them. The rifles had been discharged from the direction of the
island whence June had come, though whether the enemy were on that
island, or had actually landed on her own, Mabel could not say.
Going to the loop that commanded a view of the spot where M'Nab
lay, her blood curdled at perceiving all three of his soldiers lying
apparently lifeless at his side. These men had rushed to a common
centre at the first alarm, and had been shot down almost simultaneously
by the invisible foe whom the Corporal had affected to despise.
Neither Cap nor Lieutenant Muir was to be seen. With a beating
heart, Mabel examined every opening through the trees, and ascended
even to the upper story or garret of the blockhouse, where she got
a full view of the whole island, so far as its covers would allow,
but with no better success. She had expected to see the body of
her uncle lying on the grass like those of the soldiers, but it
was nowhere visible. Turning towards the spot where the boat lay,
Mabel saw that it was still fastened to the shore; and then she
supposed that by some accident Muir had been prevented from effecting
his retreat in that quarter. In short, the island lay in the quiet
of the grave, the bodies of the soldiers rendering the scone as
fearful as it was extraordinary.
"For God's holy sake, Mistress Mabel," called out the woman from
below; for, though her fear had become too ungovernable to allow
her to keep silence, our heroine's superior refinement, more than
the regimental station of her father, still controlled her mode
of address, -- "Mistress Mabel, tell me if any of our friends are
living! I think I hear groans that grow fainter and fainter, and
fear that they will all be tomahawked!"
Mabel now remembered that one of the soldiers was this woman's
husband, and she trembled at what might be the immediate effect
of her sorrow, should his death become suddenly known to her. The
groans, too, gave a little hope, though she feared they might come
from her uncle, who lay out of view.
"We are in His holy keeping, Jennie," she answered. "We must trust
in Providence, while we neglect none of its benevolent means of
protecting ourselves. Be careful with the door; on no account open
it without my directions."
"Oh, tell me, Mistress Mabel, if you can anywhere see Sandy! If I
could only let him know that I'm in safety, the guid man would be
easier in his mind, whether free or a prisoner."
Sandy was Jennie's husband, and he lay dead in plain view of the
loop from which our heroine was then looking.
"You no' tell me if you're seeing of Sandy," the woman repeated
from below, impatient at Mabel's silence.
"There are some of our people gathered about the body of M'Nab,"
was the answer; for it seemed sacrilegious in her eyes to tell
a direct untruth under the awful circumstances in which she was
"Is Sandy amang them?" demanded the woman, in a voice that sounded
appalling by its hoarseness and energy.
"He may be certainly; for I see one, two, three, four, and all in
the scarlet coats of the regiment."
"Sandy!" called out the woman frantically; "why d'ye no' care for
yoursal', Sandy? Come hither the instant, man, and share your
wife's fortunes in weal or woe. It's no' a moment for your silly
discipline and vain-glorious notions of honor! Sandy! Sandy!"
Mabel heard the bar turn, and then the door creaked on its hinges.
Expectation, not to say terror, held her in suspense at the loop,
and she soon beheld Jennie rushing through the bushes in the
direction of the cluster of the dead. It took the woman but an
instant to reach the fatal spot. So sudden and unexpected had been
the blow, that she in her terror did not appear to comprehend its
weight. Some wild and half-frantic notion of a deception troubled
her fancy, and she imagined that the men were trifling with her
fears. She took her husband's hand, and it was still warm, while
she thought a covert smile was struggling on his lip.
"Why will ye fool life away, Sandy?" she cried, pulling at the
arm. "Ye'll all be murdered by these accursed Indians, and you no'
takin' to the block like trusty soldiers! Awa'! awa'! and no' be
losing the precious moments."
In her desperate efforts, the woman pulled the body of her husband
in a way to cause the head to turn completely over, when the small
hole in the temple, caused by the entrance of a rifle bullet, and
a few drops of blood trickling over the skin, revealed the meaning
of her husband's silence. As the horrid truth flashed in its full
extent on her mind, the woman clasped her hands, gave a shriek
that pierced the glades of every island near, and fell at length on
the dead body of the soldier. Thrilling, heartreaching, appalling
as was that shriek, it was melody to the cry that followed it so
quickly as to blend the sounds. The terrific war-whoop arose out
of the covers of the island, and some twenty savages, horrible
in their paint and the other devices of Indian ingenuity, rushed
forward, eager to secure the coveted scalps. Arrowhead was foremost,
and it was his tomahawk that brained the insensible Jennie; and
her reeking hair was hanging at his girdle as a trophy in less than
two minutes after she had quitted the blockhouse. His companions
were equally active, and M'Nab and his soldiers no longer presented
the quiet aspect of men who slumbered. They were left in their
gore, unequivocally butchered corpses.
All this passed in much less time than has been required to relate
it, and all this did Mabel witness. She had stood riveted to the
spot, gazing on the whole horrible scene, as if enchained by some
charm, nor did the idea of self or of her own danger once obtrude
itself on her thoughts. But no sooner did she perceive the place
where the men had fallen covered with savages, exulting in the
success of their surprise, than it occurred to her that Jennie had
left the blockhouse door unbarred. Her heart beat violently, for
that defence alone stood between her and immediate death, and she
sprang toward the ladder with the intention of descending to make
sure of it. Her foot had not yet reached the floor of the second
story, however, when she heard the door grating on its hinges, and
she gave herself up for lost. Sinking on her knees, the terrified
but courageous girl endeavored to prepare herself for death, and
to raise her thoughts to God. The instinct of life, however, was
too strong for prayer, and while her lips moved, the jealous senses
watched every sound beneath. When her ears heard the bars, which
went on pivots secured to the centre of the door, turning into their
fastenings, not one, as she herself had directed, with a view to
admit her uncle should he apply, but all three, she started again
to her feet, all spiritual contemplations vanishing in her actual
temporal condition, and it seemed as if all her faculties were
absorbed in the sense of hearing.
The thoughts are active in a moment so fearful. At first Mabel
fancied that her uncle had entered the blockhouse, and she was about
to descend the ladder and throw herself into his arms; then the
idea that it might be an Indian, who had barred the door to shut
out intruders while he plundered at leisure, arrested the movement.
The profound stillness below was unlike the bold, restless movements
of Cap, and it seemed to savor more of the artifices of an enemy.
If a friend at all, it could only be her uncle or the Quartermaster;
for the horrible conviction now presented itself to our heroine that
to these two and herself were the whole party suddenly reduced, if,
indeed, the two latter survived. This consideration held Mabel in
check, and for full two minutes more a breathless silence reigned in
the building. During this time the girl stood at the foot of the
upper ladder, the trap which led to the lower opening on the opposite
side of the floor; the eyes of Mabel were riveted on this spot, for
she now began to expect to see at each instant the horrible sight
of a savage face at the hole. This apprehension soon became so
intense, that she looked about her for a place of concealment. The
procrastination of the catastrophe she now fully expected, though
it were only for a moment, afforded a relief. The room contained
several barrels; and behind two of these Mabel crouched, placing
her eyes at an opening by which she could still watch the trap.
She made another effort to pray; but the moment was too horrible
for that relief. She thought, too, that she heard a low rustling,
as if one were ascending the lower ladder with an effort at caution
so great as to betray itself by its own excess; then followed a
creaking that she was certain came from one of the steps of the
ladder, which had made the same noise under her own light weight
as she ascended. This was one of those instants into which are
compressed the sensations of years of ordinary existence. Life,
death, eternity, and extreme bodily pain were all standing out in
bold relief from the plane of every-day occurrences; and she might
have been taken at that moment for a beautiful pallid representation
of herself, equally without motion and without vitality. But while
such was the outward appearance of the form, never had there been
a time in her brief career when Mabel heard more acutely, saw more
clearly, or felt more vividly. As yet, nothing was visible at
the trap, but her ears, rendered exquisitely sensitive by intense
feeling, distinctly acquainted her that some one was within a few
inches of the opening in the floor. Next followed the evidence of
her eyes, which beheld the dark hair of an Indian rising so slowly
through the passage that the movements of the head might be likened
to that of the minute-hand of a clock; then came the dark skin and
wild features, until the whole of the swarthy face had risen above
the floor. The human countenance seldom appears to advantage when
partially concealed; and Mabel imagined many additional horrors as
she first saw the black, roving eyes and the expression of wildness
as the savage countenance was revealed, as it might be, inch by inch;
but when the entire head was raised above the floor, a second and
a better look assured our heroine that she saw the gentle, anxious,
and even handsome face of June.
Spectre though I be,
I am not sent to scare thee or deceive;
But in reward of thy fidelity.
It would be difficult to say which evinced the most satisfaction,
when Mabel sprang to her feet and appeared in the centre of the
room, our heroine, on finding that her visitor was the wife of
Arrowhead, and not Arrowhead himself, or June, at discovering that
her advice had been followed, and that the blockhouse contained the
person she had so anxiously and almost hopelessly sought. They
embraced each other, and the unsophisticated Tuscarora woman laughed
in her sweet accents as she held her friend at arm's length, and
made certain of her presence.
"Blockhouse good," said the young Indian; "got no scalp."
"It is indeed good, June," Mabel answered, with a shudder, veiling
her eyes at the same time, as if to shut out a view of the horrors
she had so lately witnessed. "Tell me, for God's sake, if you know
what has become of my dear uncle! I have looked in all directions
without being able to see him."
"No here in blockhouse?" June asked, with some curiosity.
"Indeed he is not: I am quite alone in this place; Jennie, the
woman who was with me, having rushed out to join her husband, and
perishing for her imprudence."
"June know, June see; very bad, Arrowhead no feel for any wife; no
feel for his own."
"Ah, June, your life, at least, is safe!"
"Don't know; Arrowhead kill me, if he know all."
"God bless and protect you, June! He _will_ bless and protect
you for this humanity. Tell me what is to be done, and if my poor
uncle is still living?"
"Don't know. Saltwater has boat; maybe he go on river."
"The boat is still on the shore, but neither my uncle nor the
Quartermaster is anywhere to be seen."
"No kill, or June would see. Hide away! Red man hide; no shame
"It is not the shame that I fear for them, but the opportunity.
Your attack was awfully sudden, June!"
"Tuscarora!" returned the other, smiling with exultation at the
dexterity of her husband. "Arrowhead great warrior!"
"You are too good and gentle for this sort of life, June; you cannot
be happy in such scenes?"
June's countenance grew clouded, and Mabel fancied there was some
of the savage fire of a chief in her frown as she answered, --
"Yengeese too greedy, take away all hunting-grounds; chase Six Nation
from morning to night; wicked king, wicked people. Pale-face very
Mabel knew that, even in that distant day, there was much truth in
this opinion, though she was too well instructed not to understand
that the monarch, in this, as in a thousand other cases, was
blamed for acts of which he was most probably ignorant. She felt
the justice of the rebuke, therefore, too much to attempt an answer,
and her thoughts naturally reverted to her own situation.
"And what am I to do, June?" she demanded. "It cannot be long
before your people will assault this building."
"Blockhouse good -- got no scalp."
"But they will soon discover that it has got no garrison too, if
they do not know it already. You yourself told me the number of
people that were on the island, and doubtless you learned it from
"Arrowhead know," answered June, holding up six fingers, to indicate
the number of the men. "All red men know. Four lose scalp already;
two got 'em yet."
"Do not speak of it, June; the horrid thought curdles my blood.
Your people cannot know that I am alone in the blockhouse, but may
fancy my uncle and the Quartermaster with me, and may set fire to
the building, in order to dislodge them. They tell me that fire
is the great danger to such places."
"No burn blockhouse," said June quietly;
"You cannot know that, my good June, and I have no means to keep
"No burn blockhouse. Blockhouse good; got no scalp."
"But tell me why, June; I fear they will burn it."
"Blockhouse wet -- much rain -- logs green -- no burn easy. Red
man know it -- fine t'ing -- then no burn it to tell Yengeese that
Iroquois been here. Fader come back, miss blockhouse, no found.
No, no; Indian too much cunning; no touch anything."
"I understand you, June, and hope your prediction may be true;
for, as regards my dear father, should he escape --perhaps he is
already dead or captured, June ?"
"No touch fader -- don't know where he gone -- water got no trail
-- red man can't follow. No burn blockhouse --blockhouse good;
got no scalp."
"Do you think it possible for me to remain here safely until my
"Don't know; daughter tell best when fader come back." Mabel felt
uneasy at the glance of June's dark eye as she uttered this; for
the unpleasant surmise arose that her companion was endeavoring to
discover a fact that might be useful to her own people, while it
would lead to the destruction of her parent and his party. She
was about to make an evasive answer, when a heavy push at the outer
door suddenly drew all her thoughts to the immediate danger.
"They come!" she exclaimed. "Perhaps, June, it is my uncle or the
Quartermaster. I cannot keep out even Mr. Muir at a moment like
"Why no look? plenty loophole, made purpose."
Mabel took the hint, and, going to one of the downward loops,
that had been cut through the logs in the part that overhung the
basement, she cautiously raised the little block that ordinarily
filled the small hole, and caught a glance at what was passing at
the door. The start and changing countenance told her companion
that some of her own people were below.
"Red man," said June, lifting a finger in admonition to be prudent.
"Four; and horrible in their paint and bloody trophies. Arrowhead
is among them."
June had moved to a corner, where several spare rifles had been
deposited, and had already taken one into her hand, when the name
of her husband appeared to arrest her movements. It was but for
an instant, however, for she immediately went to the loop, and was
about to thrust the muzzle of the piece through it, when a feeling
of natural aversion induced Mabel to seize her arm.
"No, no, no, June!" said the latter; "not against your own husband,
though my life be the penalty."
"No hurt Arrowhead," returned June, with a slight shudder, "no hurt
red man at all. No fire at 'em; only scare."
Mabel now comprehended the intention of June, and no longer opposed
it. The latter thrust the muzzle of the rifle through the loophole;
and, taking care to make noise enough to attract attraction, she
pulled the trigger. The piece had no sooner been discharged than
Mabel reproached her friend for the very act that was intended to
"You declared it was not your intention to fire," she said, "and
you may have destroyed your own husband."
"All run away before I fire," returned June, laughing, and going
to another loop to watch the movements of her friends, laughing
still heartier. "See! get cover -- every warrior. Think Saltwater
and Quartermaster here. Take good care now."
"Heaven be praised! And now, June, I may hope for a little time
to compose my thoughts to prayer, that I may not die like Jennie,
thinking only of life and the things of the world."
June laid aside the rifle, and came and seated herself near the
box on which Mabel had sunk, under that physical reaction which
accompanies joy as well as sorrow. She looked steadily in our
heroine's face, and the latter thought that her countenance had an
expression of severity mingled with its concern.
"Arrowhead great warrior," said the Tuscarora's wife. "All the
girls of tribe look at him much. The pale-face beauty has eyes
"June! -- what do these words -- that look -- imply? what would
"Why you so 'fraid June shoot Arrowhead?"
"Would it not have been horrible to see a wife destroy her own
husband? No, June, rather would I have died myself."
"Very sure, dat all?"
"That was all, June, as God is my judge! -- and surely that was
enough. No, no! there have been sufficient horrors to-day, without
increasing them by an act like this. What other motive can you
"Don't know. Poor Tuscarora girl very foolish. Arrowhead great
chief, and look all round him. Talk of pale-face beauty in his
sleep. Great chief like many wives."
"Can a chief possess more than one wife, June, among your people?"
"Have as many as he can keep. Great hunter marry often. Arrowhead
got only June now; but he look too much, see too much, talk too
much of pale-face girl."
Mabel was conscious of this fact, which had distressed her not
a little, in the course of their journey; but it shocked her to
hear this allusion, coming, as it did, from the mouth of the wife
herself. She knew that habit and opinions made great differences
in such matters; but, in addition to the pain and mortification
she experienced at being the unwilling rival of a wife, she felt
an apprehension that jealousy would be but an equivocal guarantee
for her personal safety in her present situation. A closer look
at June, however, reassured her; for, while it was easy to trace
in the unpractised features of this unsophisticated being the pain
of blighted affections, no distrust could have tortured the earnest
expression of her honest countenance into that of treachery or
"You will not betray me, June?" Mabel said, pressing the other's
hand, and yielding to an impulse of generous confidence. "You will
not give up one of your own sex to the tomahawk?"
"No tomahawk touch you. Arrowhead no let 'em. If June must have
sister-wife, love to have you."
"No, June; my religion, my feelings, both forbid it; and, if I could
be the wife of an Indian at all, I would never take the place that
is yours in a wigwam."
June made no answer, but she looked gratified, and even grateful.
She knew that few, perhaps no Indian girl within the circle of
Arrowhead's acquaintance, could compare with herself in personal
attractions; and, though it might suit her husband to marry a
dozen wives, she knew of no one, beside Mabel, whose influence she
could really dread. So keen an interest, however, had she taken
in the beauty, winning manners, kindness, and feminine gentleness
of our heroine, that when jealousy came to chill these feelings,
it had rather lent strength to that interest; and, under its wayward
influence, had actually been one of the strongest of the incentives
that had induced her to risk so much in order to save her imaginary
rival from the consequences of the attack that she so well knew
was about to take place. In a word, June, with a wife's keenness
of perception, had detected Arrowhead's admiration of Mabel; and,
instead of feeling that harrowing jealousy that might have rendered
her rival hateful, as would have been apt to be the case with a
woman unaccustomed to defer to the superior rights of the lordly
sex, she had studied the looks and character of the pale-face
beauty, until, meeting with nothing to repel her own feelings, but
everything to encourage them, she had got to entertain an admiration
and love for her, which, though certainly very different, was
scarcely less strong than that of her husband's. Arrowhead himself
had sent her to warn Mabel of the coming danger, though he was
ignorant that she had stolen upon the island in the rear of the
assailants, and was now intrenched in the citadel along with the
object of their joint care. On the contrary, he supposed, as his
wife had said, that Cap and Muir were in the blockhouse with Mabel,
and that the attempt to repel him and his companions had been made
by the men.
"June sorry the Lily" -- for so the Indian, in her poetical language,
had named our heroine -- "June sorry the Lily no marry Arrowhead.
His wigwam big, and a great chief must get wives enough to fill
"I thank you, June, for this preference, which is not according
to the notion of us white women," returned Mabel, smiling in spite
of the fearful situation in which she was placed; "but I may not,
probably never shall, marry at all."
"Must have good husband," said June; "marry Eau-douce, if don't
"June! this is not a fit subject for a girl who scarcely knows if
she is to live another hour or not. I would obtain some signs of
my dear uncle's being alive and safe, if possible."
"June go see."
"Can you? -- will you? -- would it be safe for you to be seen on
the island? is your presence known to the warriors, and would they
be pleased to find a woman on the war-path with them?"
All this Mabel asked in rapid connection, fearing that the answer
might not be as she wished. She had thought it extraordinary that
June should be of the party, and, improbable as it seemed, she had
fancied that the woman had covertly followed the Iroquois in her
own canoe, and had got in their advance, merely to give her the
notice which had probably saved her life. But in all this she was
mistaken, as June, in her imperfect manner, now found means to let
Arrowhead, though a chief, was in disgrace with his own people,
and was acting with the Iroquois temporarily, though with a perfect
understanding. He had a wigwam, it is true, but was seldom in
it; feigning friendship for the English, he had passed the summer
ostensibly in their service, while he was, in truth, acting for
the French, and his wife journeyed with him in his many migrations,
most of the distances being passed over in canoes. In a word,
her presence was no secret, her husband seldom moving without her.
Enough of this to embolden Mabel to wish that her friend might
go out, to ascertain the fate of her uncle, did June succeed in
letting the other know; and it was soon settled between them that
the Indian woman should quit the blockhouse with that object the
moment a favorable opportunity offered.
They first examined the island, as thoroughly as their position
would allow, from the different loops, and found that its conquerors
were preparing for a feast, having seized upon the provisions of
the English and rifled the huts. Most of the stores were in the
blockhouse; but enough were found outside to reward the Indians
for an attack that had been attended by so little risk. A party
had already removed the dead bodies, and Mabel saw that their arms
were collected in a pile near the spot chosen for the banquet.
June suggested that, by some signs which she understood, the dead
themselves were carried into a thicket and either buried or concealed
from view. None of the more prominent objects on the island,
however, were disturbed, it being the desire of the conquerors to
lure the party of the Sergeant into an ambush on its return. June
made her companion observe a man in a tree, a look-out, as she
said, to give timely notice of the approach of any boat, although,
the departure of the expedition being so recent, nothing but some
unexpected event would be likely to bring it back so soon. There
did not appear to be any intention to attack the blockhouse
immediately; but every indication, as understood by June, rather
showed that it was the intention of the Indians to keep it besieged
until the return of the Sergeant's party, lest, the signs of an
assault should give a warning to eyes as practised as those of
Pathfinder. The boat, however, had been secured, and was removed
to the spot where the canoes of the Indians were hid in the bushes.
June now announced her intention to join her friends, the moment
being particularly favorable for her to quit the blockhouse. Mabel
felt some distrust as they descended the ladder; but at the next
instant she was ashamed of the feeling, as unjust to her companion
and unworthy of herself, and by the time they both stood on the
ground her confidence was restored. The process of unbarring the
door was conducted with the utmost caution, and when the last bar
was ready to be turned June took her station near the spot where
the opening must necessarily be. The bar was just turned free of
the brackets, the door was opened merely wide enough to allow her
body to pass, and June glided through the space. Mabel closed the
door again, with a convulsive movement; and as the bar turned into
its place, her heart beat audibly. She then felt secure; and the
two other bars were turned down in a more deliberate manner. When
all was fast again, she ascended to the first floor, where alone
she could get a glimpse of what was going on without.
Long and painfully melancholy hours passed, during which Mabel had
no intelligence from June. She heard the yells of the savages,
for liquor had carried them beyond the bounds of precaution; and
occasionally caught glimpses of their mad orgies through the loops;
and at all times was conscious of their fearful presence by sounds
and sights that would have chilled the blood of one who had not so
lately witnessed scenes so much more terrible. Toward the middle
of the day, she fancied she saw a white man on the island, though
his dress and wild appearance at first made her take him for a
newly-arrived savage. A view of his face, although it was swarthy
naturally, and much darkened by exposure, left no doubt that her
conjecture was true; and she felt as if there was now one of a
species more like her own present, and one to whom she might appeal
for succor in the last emergency. Mabel little knew, alas! how
small was the influence exercised by the whites over their savage
allies, when the latter had begun to taste of blood; or how slight,
indeed, was the disposition to divert them from their cruelties.
The day seemed a month by Mabel's computation, and the only part
of it that did not drag were the minutes spent in prayer. She had
recourse to this relief from time to time; and at each effort she
found her spirit firmer, her mind more tranquil, and her resignation
more confirmed. She understood the reasoning of June, and believed
it highly probable that the blockhouse would be left unmolested
until the return of her father, in order to entice him into an
ambuscade, and she felt much less apprehension of immediate danger
in consequence; but the future offered little ground of hope, and
her thoughts had already begun to calculate the chances of her
captivity. At such moments, Arrowhead and his offensive admiration
filled a prominent place in the background: for our heroine well
knew that the Indians usually carried off to their villages, for
the purposes of adoption, such captives as they did not slay; and
that many instances had occurred in which individuals of her sex
had passed the remainder of their lives in the wigwams of their
conquerors. Such thoughts as these invariably drove her to her
knees and to her prayers.
While the light lasted the situation of our heroine was sufficiently
alarming; but as the shades of evening gradually gathered over the
island, it became fearfully appalling. By this time the savages
had wrought themselves up to the point of fury, for they had
possessed themselves of all the liquor of the English; and their
outcries and gesticulations were those of men truly possessed by
evil spirits. All the efforts of their French leader to restrain
them were entirely fruitless, and he had wisely withdrawn to
an adjacent island, where he had a sort of bivouac, that he might
keep at a safe distance from friends so apt to run into excesses.
Before quitting the spot, however, this officer, at great risk
to his own life, had succeeded in extinguishing the fire, and in
securing the ordinary means to relight it. This precaution he
took lest the Indians should burn the blockhouse, the preservation
of which was necessary to the success of his future plans. He
would gladly have removed all the arms also, but this he found
impracticable, the warriors clinging to their knives and tomahawks
with the tenacity of men who regarded a point of honor as long as
a faculty was left; and to carry off the rifles, and leave behind
him the very weapons that were generally used on such occasions,
would have been an idle expedient. The extinguishing of the
fire proved to be the most prudent measure; for no sooner was the
officer's back turned than one of the warriors in fact proposed to
fire the blockhouse. Arrowhead had also withdrawn from the group
of drunkards as soon as he found that they were losing their senses,
and had taken possession of a hut, where he had thrown himself on
the straw, and sought the rest that two wakeful and watchful nights
had rendered necessary. It followed that no one was left among the
Indians to care for Mabel, if, indeed, any knew of her existence
at all; and the proposal of the drunkard was received with yells
of delight by eight or ten more as much intoxicated and habitually
as brutal as himself.
This was the fearful moment for Mabel. The Indians, in their
present condition, were reckless of any rifles that the blockhouse
might hold, though they did retain dim recollections of its containing
living beings, an additional incentive to their enterprise; and
they approached its base whooping and leaping like demons. As yet
they were excited, not overcome by the liquor they had drunk. The
first attempt was made at the door, against which they ran in a
body; but the solid structure, which was built entirely of logs,
defied their efforts. The rush of a hundred men with the same
object would have been useless. This Mabel, however, did not
know; and her heart seemed to leap into her mouth as she heard
the heavy shock at each renewed effort. At length, when she found
that the door resisted these assaults as if it were of stone,
neither trembling nor yielding, and only betraying its not being
a part of the wall by rattling a little on its heavy hinges, her
courage revived, and she seized the first moment of a cessation to
look down through the loop, in order, if possible, to learn the
extent of her danger. A silence, for which it was not easy to
account, stimulated her curiosity; for nothing is so alarming to
those who are conscious of the presence of imminent danger, as to
be unable to trace its approach.
Mabel found that two or three of the Iroquois had been raking the
embers, where they had found a few small coals, and with these they
were endeavoring to light a fire. The interest with which they
labored, the hope of destroying, and the force of habit, enabled
them to act intelligently and in unison, so long as their fell
object was kept in view. A white man would have abandoned the
attempt to light a fire in despair, with coals that came out of
the ashes resembling sparks; but these children of the forest had
many expedients that were unknown to civilization. By the aid of
a few dry leaves, which they alone knew where to seek, a blaze was
finally kindled, and then the addition of a few light sticks made
sure of the advantage that had been obtained. When Mabel stooped
down over the loop, the Indians were making a pile of brush against
the door, and as she remained gazing at their proceedings, she saw
the twigs ignite, the flame dart from branch to branch, until the
whole pile was cracking and snapping under a bright blaze. The
Indians now gave a yell of triumph, and returned to their companions,
well assured that the work of destruction was commenced. Mabel
remained looking down, scarcely able to tear herself away from
the spot, so intense and engrossing was the interest she felt in
the progress of the fire. As the pile kindled throughout, however,
the flames mounted, until they flashed so near her eyes as to
compel her to retreat. Just as she reached the opposite side of
the room, to which she had retired in her alarm, a forked stream
shot up through the loophole, the lid of which she had left open,
and illuminated the rude apartment, with Mabel and her desolation.
Our heroine now naturally enough supposed that her hour was come;
for the door, the only means of retreat, had been blocked up by the
brush and fire, with hellish ingenuity, and she addressed herself,
as she believed, for the last time to her Maker in prayer. Her eyes
were closed, and for more than a minute her spirit was abstracted;
but the interests of the world too strongly divided her feelings
to be altogether suppressed; and when they involuntarily opened
again, she perceived that the streak of flame was no longer flaring
in the room, though the wood around the little aperture had kindled,
and the blaze was slowly mounting under the impulsion of a current
of air that sucked inward. A barrel of water stood in a corner; and
Mabel, acting more by instinct than by reason, caught up a vessel,
filled it, and, pouring it on the wood with a trembling hand,
succeeded in extinguishing the fire at that particular spot. The
smoke prevented her from looking down again for a couple of minutes;
but when she did her heart beat high with delight and hope at finding
that the pile of blazing brush had been overturned and scattered,
and that water had been thrown on the logs of the door, which were
still smoking though no longer burning.
"Who is there?" said Mabel, with her mouth at the loop. "What
friendly hand has a merciful Providence sent to my succor?"
A light footstep was audible below, and one of those gentle pushes
at the door was heard, which just moved the massive beams on the
"Who wishes to enter? Is it you, dear, dear uncle?"
"Saltwater no here. St. Lawrence sweet water," was the answer.
"Open quick; want to come in."
The step of Mabel was never lighter, or her movements more quick
and natural, than while she was descending the ladder and turning
the bars, for all her motions were earnest and active. This time
she thought only of her escape, and she opened the door with a
rapidity which did not admit of caution. Her first impulse was to
rush into the open air, in the blind hope of quitting the blockhouse;
but June repulsed the attempt, and entering, she coolly barred the
door again before she would notice Mabel's eager efforts to embrace
"Bless you! bless you, June!" cried our heroine most fervently;
"you are sent by Providence to be my guardian angel!"
"No hug so tight," answered the Tuscarora woman. "Pale-face woman
all cry, or all laugh. Let June fasten door."
Mabel became more rational, and in a few minutes the two were again
in the upper room, seated as before, hand in hand, all feeling of
distrust between them being banished.
"Now tell me, June," Mabel commenced as soon as she had given and
received one warm embrace, "have you seen or heard aught of my poor
"Don't know. No one see him; no one hear him; no one know anyt'ing.
Saltwater run into river, I t'ink, for I no find him. Quartermaster
gone too. I look, and look, and look; but no see' em, one, t'other,
"Blessed be God! They must have escaped, though the means are not
known to us. I thought I saw a Frenchman on the island, June."
"Yes: French captain come, but he go away too. Plenty of Indian
"Oh, June, June, are there no means to prevent my beloved father
from falling into the hands of his enemies?"
"Don't know; t'ink dat warriors wait in ambush, and Yengeese must
"Surely, surely, June, you, who have done so much for the daughter,
will not refuse to help the father?"
"Don't know fader, don't love fader. June help her own people,
help Arrowhead -- husband love scalp."
"June, this is not yourself. I cannot, will not believe that you
wish to see our men murdered!"
June turned her dark eyes quietly on Mabel; and for a moment her
look was stern, though it was soon changed into one of melancholy
"Lily, Yengeese girl?" she said, as one asks a question.
"Certainly, and as a Yengeese girl I would save my countrymen from
"Very good, if can. June no Yengeese, June Tuscarora -- got
Tuscarora husband -- Tuscarora heart -- Tuscarora feeling -- all
over Tuscarora. Lily wouldn't run and tell French that her fader
was coming to gain victory?"
"Perhaps not," returned Mabel, pressing a hand on a brain that felt
bewildered, -- "perhaps not; but you serve me, aid me -- have saved
me, June! Why have you done this, if you only feel as a Tuscarora?"
"Don't only feel as Tuscarora; feel as girl, feel as squaw. Love
pretty Lily, and put it in my bosom."
Mabel melted into tears, and she pressed the affectionate creature
to her heart. It was near a minute before she could renew the
discourse, but then she succeeded in speaking more calmly and with
"Let me know the worst, June," said she. "To-night your people
are feasting; what do they intend to do to-morrow?"
"Don't know; afraid to see Arrowhead, afraid to ask question; t'ink
hide away till Yengeese come back."
"Will they not attempt anything against the blockhouse? You have
seen what they can threaten if they will."
"Too much rum. Arrowhead sleep, or no dare; French captain gone
away, or no dare. All go to sleep now."
"And you think I am safe for this night, at least?"
"Too much rum. If Lily like June, might do much for her people."
"I am like you, June, if a wish to serve my countrymen can make a
resemblance with one as courageous as yourself."
"No, no, no!" muttered June in a low voice; "no got heart, and June
no let you, if had. June's moder prisoner once, and warriors got
drunk; moder tomahawked 'em all. Such de way red skin women do
when people in danger and want scalp."
"You say what is true," returned Mabel, shuddering, and unconsciously
dropping June's hand. "I cannot do that. I have neither the
strength, the courage, nor the will to dip my hands in blood."
"T'ink that too; then stay where you be -- blockhouse good -- got
"You believe, then, that I am safe here, at least until my father
and his people return?"
"Know so. No dare touch blockhouse in morning. Hark! all still
now -- drink rum till head fall down, and sleep like log."
"Might I not escape? Are there not several canoes on the island?
Might I not get one, and go and give my father notice of what has
"Know how to paddle?" demanded June, glancing her eye furtively at
"Not so well as yourself, perhaps; but enough to get out of sight
"What do then? -- couldn't paddle six -- ten -- eight mile!"
"I do not know; I would do much to warn my father, and the excellent
Pathfinder, and all the rest, of the danger they are in."
"All like him who know him -- you would like him, nay, love him,
if you only knew his heart!"
"No like him at all. Too good rifle -- too good eye --too much
shoot Iroquois and June's people. Must get his scalp if can."
"And I must save it if I can, June. In this respect, then, we are
opposed to each other. I will go and find a canoe the instant they
are all asleep, and quit the island."
"No can -- June won't let you. Call Arrowhead."
"June! you would not betray me -- you could not give me up after
all you have done for me?"
"Just so," returned June, making a backward gesture with her hand,
and speaking with a warmth and earnestness Mabel had never witnessed
in her before. "Call Arrowhead in loud voice. One call from wife
wake a warrior up. June no let Lily help enemy -- no let Indian
"I understand you, June, and feel the nature and justice of your
sentiments; and, after all, it were better that I should remain
here, for I have most probably overrated my strength. But tell me
one thing: if my uncle comes in the night, and asks to be admitted,
you will let me open the door of the blockhouse that he may enter?"
"Sartain -- he prisoner here, and June like prisoner better than
scalp; scalp good for honor, prisoner good for feeling. But
Saltwater hide so close, he don't know where he be himself."
Here June laughed in her girlish, mirthful way, for to her scenes
of violence were too familiar to leave impressions sufficiently deep
to change her natural character. A long and discursive dialogue
now followed, in which Mabel endeavored to obtain clearer notions
of her actual situation, under a faint hope that she might possibly
be enabled to turn some of the facts she thus learned to advantage.
June answered all her interrogatories simply, but with a caution
which showed she fully distinguished between that which was immaterial
and that which might endanger the safety or embarrass the future
operations of her friends. The substance of the information she
gave may be summed up as follows.
Arrowhead had long been in communication with the French, though this
was the first occasion on which he had entirely thrown aside the
mask. He no longer intended to trust himself among the English, for
he had discovered traces of distrust, particularly in Pathfinder;
and, with Indian bravado, he now rather wished to blazon than
to conceal his treachery. He had led the party of warriors in
the attack on the island, subject, however, to the supervision of
the Frenchman who has been mentioned, though June declined saying
whether he had been the means of discovering the position of a
place which had been thought to be so concealed from the enemy or
not. On this point she would say nothing; but she admitted that
she and her husband had been watching the departure of the _Scud_
at the time they were overtaken and captured by the cutter. The
French had obtained their information of the precise position
of the station but very recently; and Mabel felt a pang when she
thought that there were covert allusions of the Indian woman which
would convey the meaning that the intelligence had come from a
pale-face in the employment of Duncan of Lundie. This was intimated,
however, rather than said; and when Mabel had time to reflect on her
companion's words, she found room to hope that she had misunderstood
her, and that Jasper Western would yet come out of the affair freed
from every injurious imputation.
June did not hesitate to confess that she had been sent to the
island to ascertain the precise number and the occupations of those
who had been left on it, though she also betrayed in her _naive_
way that the wish to serve Mabel had induced her principally to
consent to come. In consequence of her report, and information
otherwise obtained, the enemy was aware of precisely the force
that could be brought against them. They also knew the number of
men who had gone with Sergeant Dunham, and were acquainted with
the object he had in view, though they were ignorant of the spot
where he expected to meet the French boats. It would have been
a pleasant sight to witness the eager desire of each of these two
sincere females to ascertain all that might be of consequence to
their respective friends; and yet the native delicacy with which each
refrained from pressing the other to make revelations which would
have been improper, as well as the sensitive, almost intuitive,
feeling with which each avoided saying aught that might prove
injurious to her own nation. As respects each other, there was
perfect confidence; as regarded their respective people, entire
fidelity. June was quite as anxious as Mabel could be on any other
point to know where the Sergeant had gone and when he was expected
to return; but she abstained from putting the question, with a
delicacy that would have done honor to the highest civilization;
nor did she once frame any other inquiry in a way to lead indirectly
to a betrayal of the much-desired information on that particular
point: though when Mabel of her own accord touched on any matter
that might by possibility throw a light on the subject, she listened
with an intentness which almost suspended respiration.
In this manner the hours passed away unheeded, for both were too
much interested to think of rest. Nature asserted her rights,
however, towards morning; and Mabel was persuaded to lie down on
one of the straw beds provided for the soldiers, where she soon
fell into a deep sleep. June lay near her and a quiet reigned on
the whole island as profound as if the dominion of the forest had
never been invaded by man.
When Mabel awoke the light of the sun was streaming in through the
loopholes, and she found that the day was considerably advanced.
June still lay near her, sleeping as tranquilly as if she reposed
on -- we will not say "down," for the superior civilization of
our own times repudiates the simile -- but on a French mattress,
and as profoundly as if she had never experienced concern. The
movements of Mabel, notwithstanding, soon awakened one so accustomed
to vigilance; and then the two took a survey of what was passing
around them by means of the friendly apertures.
What had the Eternall Maker need of thee,
The world in his continuall course to keepe,
That doest all things deface? ne lettest see
The beautie of his worke? Indeede in sleepe,
The slouth full body that doth love to steepe
His lustlesse limbs, and drowne his baser mind,
Doth praise thee oft, and oft from Stygian deepe,
Calles thee his goddesse, in his errour blind,
And great dame Nature's hand-maide, chearing every kinde.
The tranquillity of the previous night was not contradicted by
the movements of the day. Although Mabel and June went to every
loophole, not a sign of the presence of a living being on the
island was at first to be seen, themselves excepted. There was a
smothered fire on the spot where M'Nab and his comrades had cooked,
as if the smoke which curled upwards from it was intended as a lure
to the absent; and all around the huts had been restored to former
order and arrangement. Mabel started involuntarily when her eye
at length fell on a group of three men, dressed in the scarlet of
the 55th, seated on the grass in lounging attitudes, as if they
chatted in listless security; and her blood curdled as, on a second
look, she traced the bloodless faces and glassy eyes of the dead.
They were very near the blockhouse, so near indeed as to have been
overlooked at the first eager inquiry, and there was a mocking levity
in their postures and gestures, for their limbs were stiffening in
different attitudes, intended to resemble life, at which the soul
revolted. Still, horrible as these objects were to those near
enough to discover the frightful discrepancy between their assumed
and their real characters, the arrangement had been made with so
much art that it would have deceived a negligent observer at the
distance of a hundred yards. After carefully examining the shores
of the island, June pointed out to her companion the fourth soldier,
seated, with his feet hanging over the water, his back fastened to
a sapling, and holding a fishing-rod in his hand. The scalpless
heads were covered with the caps, and all appearance of blood had
been carefully washed from each countenance.
Mabel sickened at this sight, which not only did so much violence
to all her notions of propriety, but which was in itself so revolting
and so opposed to natural feeling. She withdrew to a seat, and hid
her face in her apron for several minutes, until a low call from
June again drew her to a loophole. The latter then pointed out
the body of Jennie seemingly standing in the door of a hut, leaning
forward as if to look at the group of men, her cap fluttering in
the wind, and her hand grasping a broom. The distance was too great
to distinguish the features very accurately; but Mabel fancied
that the jaw had been depressed, as if to distort the mouth into
a sort of horrible laugh.
"June! June!" she exclaimed; "this exceeds all I have ever heard,
or imagined as possible, in the treachery and artifices of your
"Tuscarora very cunning," said June, in a way to show that she
rather approved of than condemned the uses to which the dead bodies
had been applied. "Do soldier no harm now; do Iroquois good; got
the scalp first; now make bodies work. By and by, burn 'em."
This speech told Mabel how far she was separated from her friend in
character; and it was several minutes before she could again address
her. But this temporary aversion was lost on June, who set about
preparing their simple breakfast, in a way to show how insensible
she was to feelings in others which her own habits taught her to
discard. Mabel ate sparingly, and her companion, as if nothing
had happened. Then they had leisure again for their thoughts, and
for further surveys of the island. Our heroine, though devoured
with a feverish desire to be always at the loops, seldom went that
she did not immediately quit them in disgust, though compelled by
her apprehensions to return again in a few minutes, called by the
rustling of leaves, or the sighing of the wind. It was, indeed,
a solemn thing to look out upon that deserted spot, peopled by the
dead in the panoply of the living, and thrown into the attitudes
and acts of careless merriment and rude enjoyment. The effect on
our heroine was much as if she had found herself an observer of
the revelries of demons.
Throughout the livelong day not an Indian nor a Frenchman was to
be seen, and night closed over the frightful but silent masquerade,
with the steady and unalterable progress with which the earth obeys
her laws, indifferent to the petty actors and petty scenes that
are in daily bustle and daily occurrence on her bosom. The night
was far more quiet than that which had preceded it, and Mabel slept
with an increasing confidence; for she now felt satisfied that her
own fate would not be decided until the return of her father. The
following day he was expected, however, and when our heroine awoke,
she ran eagerly to the loops in order to ascertain the state of
the weather and the aspect of the skies, as well as the condition
of the island. There lounged the fearful group on the grass; the
fisherman still hung over the water, seemingly intent on his sport;
and the distorted countenance of Jennie glared from out the hut in
horrible contortions. But the weather had changed; the wind blew
fresh from the southward, and though the air was bland, it was
filled with the elements of storm.
"This grows more and more difficult to bear, June," Mabel said,
when she left the window. "I could even prefer to see the enemy
than to look any longer on this fearful array of the dead."
"Hush! Here they come. June thought hear a cry like a warrior's
shout when he take a scalp."
"What mean you? There is no more butchery! -- there can be no
"Saltwater!" exclaimed June, laughing, as she stood peeping through
"My dear uncle! Thank God! he then lives! Oh, June, June, _you_
will not let them harm _him?_"
"June, poor squaw. What warrior t'ink of what she say? Arrowhead
bring him here."
By this time Mabel was at a loop; and, sure enough, there were Cap
and the Quartermaster in the hands of the Indians, eight or ten of
whom were conducting them to the foot of the block, for, by this
capture, the enemy now well knew that there could be no man in
the building. Mabel scarcely breathed until the whole party stood
ranged directly before the door, when she was rejoiced to see that
the French officer was among them. A low conversation followed,
in which both the white leader and Arrowhead spoke earnestly to
their captives, when the Quartermaster called out to her in a voice
loud enough to be heard.
"Pretty Mabel! Pretty Mabel!" said he; "Look out of one of the
loopholes, and pity our condition. We are threatened with instant
death unless you open the door to the conquerors. Relent, then
or we'll no' be wearing our scalps half an hour from this blessed
Mabel thought there were mockery and levity in this appeal, and
its manner rather fortified than weakened her resolution to hold
the place as long as possible.
"Speak to me, uncle," said she, with her mouth at a loop, "and tell
me what I ought to do."
"Thank God! thank God!" ejaculated Cap; "the sound of your sweet
voice, Magnet, lightens my heart of a heavy load, for I feared you
had shared the fate of poor Jennie. My breast has felt the last
four-and-twenty hours as if a ton of kentledge had been stowed in
it. You ask me what you ought to do, child, and I do not know how
to advise you, though you are my own sister's daughter! The most
I can say just now, my poor girl, is most heartily to curse the
day you or I ever saw this bit of fresh water."
"But, uncle, is your life in danger -- do _you_ think I ought to
open the door?"
"A round turn and two half-hitches make a fast belay; and I would
counsel no one who is out of the hands of these devils to unbar or
unfasten anything in order to fall into them. As to the Quartermaster
and myself, we are both elderly men, and not of much account to
mankind in general, as honest Pathfinder would say; and it can make
no great odds to him whether he balances the purser's books this
year or the next; and as for myself, why, if I were on the seaboard,
I should know what to do, but up here, in this watery wilderness,
I can only say, that if I were behind that bit of a bulwark, it
would take a good deal of Indian logic to rouse me out of it."
"You'll no' be minding all your uncle says, pretty Mabel," put in
Muir, "for distress is obviously fast unsettling his faculties, and
he is far from calculating all the necessities of the emergency.
We are in the hands here of very considerate and gentlemanly
pairsons, it must be acknowledged, and one has little occasion to
apprehend disagreeable violence. The casualties that have occurred
are the common incidents of war, and can no' change our sentiments
of the enemy, for they are far from indicating that any injustice
will be done the prisoners. I'm sure that neither Master Cap nor
myself has any cause of complaint since we have given ourselves
up to Master Arrowhead, who reminds me of a Roman or a Spartan by
his virtues and moderation; but ye'll be remembering that usages
differ, and that our scalps may be lawful sacrifices to appease
the manes of fallen foes, unless you save them by capitulation."
"I shall do wiser to keep within the blockhouse until the fate of
the island is settled," returned Mabel. "Our enemies can feel no
concern on account of one like me, knowing that I can do them no
harm, and I greatly prefer to remain here as more befitting my sex
"If nothing but your convenience were concerned, Mabel, we should
all cheerfully acquiesce in your wishes, but these gentlemen fancy
that the work will aid their operations, and they have a strong
desire to possess it. To be frank with you, finding myself and your
uncle in a very peculiar situation, I acknowledge that, to avert
consequences, I have assumed the power that belongs to his Majesty's
commission, and entered into a verbal capitulation, by which I
have engaged to give up the blockhouse and the whole island. It
is the fortune of war, and must be submitted to; so open the door,
pretty Mabel, forthwith, and confide yourself to the care of those
who know how to treat beauty and virtue in distress. There's no
courtier in Scotland more complaisant than this chief, or who is
more familiar with the laws of decorum."
"No leave blockhouse," muttered June, who stood at Mabel's side,
attentive to all that passed. "Blockhouse good -- got no scalp."
Our heroine might have yielded but for this appeal; for it began
to appear to her that the wisest course would be to conciliate the
enemy by concessions instead of exasperating them by resistance.
They must know that Muir and her uncle were in their power; that
there was no man in the building, and she fancied they might proceed
to batter down the door, or cut their way through the logs with
axes, if she obstinately refused to give them peaceable admission,
since there was no longer any reason to dread the rifle. But the
words of June induced her to hesitate, and the earnest pressure
of the hand and entreating looks of her companion strengthened a
resolution that was faltering.
"No prisoner yet," whispered June; "let 'em make prisoner before
'ey take prisoner -- talk big; June manage 'em."
Mabel now began to parley more resolutely with Muir, for her uncle
seemed disposed to quiet his conscience by holding his tongue, and
she plainly intimated that it was not her intention to yield the
"You forget the capitulation, Mistress Mabel," said Muir; "the
honor of one of his Majesty's servants is concerned, and the honor
of his Majesty through his servant. You will remember the finesse
and delicacy that belong to military honor?"
"I know enough, Mr. Muir, to understand that you have no command
in this expedition, and therefore can have no right to yield the
blockhouse; and I remember, moreover, to have heard my dear father
say that a prisoner loses all his authority for the time being."
"Rank sophistry, pretty Mabel, and treason to the king, as well
as dishonoring his commission and discrediting his name. You'll
no' be persevering in your intentions, when your better judgment
has had leisure to reflect and to make conclusions on matters and
"Ay," put in Cap, "this is a circumstance, and be d----d to it!"
"No mind what'e uncle say," ejaculated June, who was occupied in
a far corner of the room. "Blockhouse good - got no scalp."
"I shall remain as I am, Mr. Muir, until I get some tidings of my
father. He will return in the course of the next ten days."
"Ah, Mabel, this artifice will no' deceive the enemy, who, by means
that would be unintelligible, did not our suspicions rest on an
unhappy young man with too much plausibility, are familiar with
all our doings and plans, and well know that the sun will not set
before the worthy Sergeant and his companions will be in their power.
Aweel! Submission to Providence is truly a Christian virtue!"
"Mr. Muir, you appear to be deceived in the strength of this work,
and to fancy it weaker than it is. Do you desire to see what I
can do in the way of defence, if so disposed?"
"I dinna mind if I do," answered the Quartermaster, who always grew
Scotch as he grew interested.
"What do you think of that, then? Look at the loop of the upper
As soon as Mabel had spoken, all eyes were turned upward, and
beheld the muzzle of a rifle cautiously thrust through a hole,
June having resorted again to a _ruse_ which had already proved so
successful. The result did not disappoint expectation. No sooner
did the Indians catch a sight of the fatal weapon than they leaped
aside, and in less than a minute every man among them had sought a
cover. The French officer kept his eye on the barrel of the piece
in order to ascertain that it was not pointed in his particular
direction, and he coolly took a pinch of snuff. As neither Muir
nor Cap had anything to apprehend from the quarter in which the
others were menaced, they kept their ground.
"Be wise, my pretty Mabel, be wise!" exclaimed the former; "and
no' be provoking useless contention. In the name of all the kings
of Albin, who have ye closeted with you in that wooden tower that
seemeth so bloody-minded? There is necromancy about this matter,
and all our characters may be involved in the explanation."
"What do you think of the Pathfinder, Master Muir, for a garrison
to so strong a post?" cried Mabel, resorting to an equivocation
which the circumstances rendered very excusable. "What will your
French and Indian companions think of the aim of the Pathfinder's
"Bear gently on the unfortunate, pretty Mabel, and do not confound
the king's servants -- may Heaven bless him and all his royal
lineage! -- with the king's enemies. If Pathfinder be indeed in
the blockhouse, let him speak, and we will hold our negotiations
directly with him. He knows us as friends, and we fear no evil at
his hands, and least of all to myself; for a generous mind is apt
to render rivalry in a certain interest a sure ground of respect
and amity, since admiration of the same woman proves a community
of feeling and tastes."
The reliance on Pathfinder's friendship did not extend beyond the
Quartermaster and Cap, however, for even the French officer, who
had hitherto stood his ground so well, shrank back at the sound of
the terrible name. So unwilling, indeed, did this individual, a
man of iron nerves, and one long accustomed to the dangers of the
peculiar warfare in which he was engaged, appear to remain exposed
to the assaults of Killdeer, whose reputation throughout all that
frontier was as well established as that of Marlborough in Europe,
that he did not disdain to seek a cover, insisting that his two
prisoners should follow him. Mabel was too glad to be rid of her
enemies to lament the departure of her friends, though she kissed
her hand to Cap through the loop, and called out to him in terms
of affection as he moved slowly and unwillingly away.
The enemy now seemed disposed to abandon all attempts on the
blockhouse for the present; and June, who had ascended to a trap
in the roof, whence the best view was to be obtained, reported that
the whole party had assembled to eat, on a distant and sheltered
part of the island, where Muir and Cap were quietly sharing in the
good things which were going, as if they had no concern on their
minds. This information greatly relieved Mabel, and she began to
turn her thoughts again to the means of effecting her own escape,
or at least of letting her father know of the danger that awaited
him. The Sergeant was expected to return that afternoon, and she
knew that a moment gained or lost might decide his fate.
Three or four hours flew by. The island was again buried in a
profound quiet, the day was wearing away, and yet Mabel had decided
on nothing. June was in the basement, preparing their frugal meal,
and Mabel herself had ascended to the roof, which was provided
with a trap that allowed her to go out on the top of the building,
whence she commanded the best view of surrounding objects that the
island possessed; still it was limited, and much obstructed by the
tops of trees. The anxious girl did not dare to trust her person
in sight, knowing well that the unrestrained passions of some savage
might induce him to send a bullet through her brain. She merely
kept her head out of the trap, therefore, whence, in the course of
the afternoon, she made as many surveys of the different channels
about the island as "Anne, sister Anne," took of the environs of
the castle of Blue Beard.
The sun had actually set; no intelligence had been received from
the boats, and Mabel ascended to the roof to take a last look,
hoping that the party would arrive in the darkness; which would at
least prevent the Indians from rendering their ambuscade so fatal
as it might otherwise prove, and which possibly might enable her
to give some more intelligible signal, by means of fire, than it
would otherwise be in her power to do. Her eye had turned carefully
round the whole horizon, and she was just on the point of drawing
in her person, when an object that struck her as new caught her
attention. The islands lay grouped so closely, that six or eight
different channels or passages between them were in view; and in
one of the most covered, concealed in a great measure by the bushes
of the shore, lay what a second look assured her was a bark canoe.
It contained a human being beyond a question. Confident that if an
enemy her signal could do no harm, and; if a friend, that it might
do good, the eager girl waved a little flag towards the stranger,
which she had prepared for her father, taking care that it should
not be seen from the island.
Mabel had repeated her signal eight or ten times in vain, and
she began to despair of its being noticed, when a sign was given
in return by the wave of a paddle, and the man so far discovered
himself as to let her see it was Chingachgook. Here, then, at last,
was a friend; one, too, who was able, and she doubted not would be
willing to aid her. From that instant her courage and her spirits
revived. The Mohican had seen her; must have recognized her, as
he knew that she was of the party; and no doubt, as soon as it was
sufficiently dark, he would take the steps necessary to release
her. That he was aware of the presence of the enemy was apparent
by the great caution he observed, and she had every reliance on
his prudence and address. The principal difficulty now existed
with June; for Mabel had seen too much of her fidelity to her own
people, relieved as it was by sympathy for herself, to believe she
would consent to a hostile Indian's entering the blockhouse, or
indeed to her leaving it, with a view to defeat Arrowhead's plans.
The half-hour which succeeded the discovery of the presence of the
Great Serpent was the most painful of Mabel Dunham's life. She
saw the means of effecting all she wished, as it might be within
reach of her hand, and yet it eluded her grasp. She knew June's
decision and coolness, notwithstanding all her gentleness and womanly
feeling; and at last she came reluctantly to the conclusion that
there was no other way of attaining her end than by deceiving her
tried companion and protector. It was revolting to one so sincere
and natural, so pure of heart, and so much disposed to ingenuousness
as Mabel Dunham, to practise deception on a friend like June; but
her own father's life was at stake, her companion would receive
no positive injury, and she had feelings and interests directly
touching herself which would have removed greater scruples.
As soon as it was dark, Mabel's heart began to beat with increased
violence; and she adopted and changed her plan of proceeding at
least a dozen times in a single hour. June was always the source
of her greatest embarrassment; for she did not well see, first,
how she was to ascertain when Chingachgook was at the door, where
she doubted not he would soon appear; and, secondly, how she was
to admit him, without giving the alarm to her watchful companion.
Time pressed, however; for the Mohican might come and go away again,
unless she was ready to receive him. It would be too hazardous to
the Delaware to remain long on the island; and it became absolutely
necessary to determine on some course, even at the risk of choosing
one that was indiscreet. After running over various projects in
her mind, therefore, Mabel came to her companion, and said, with
as much calmness as she could assume, --
"Are you not afraid, June, now your people believe Pathfinder is
in the blockhouse, that they will come and try to set it on fire?"
"No t'ink such t'ing. No burn blockhouse. Blockhouse good; got
"June, we cannot know. They hid because they believed what I told
them of Pathfinder's being with us."
"Believe fear. Fear come quick, go quick. Fear make run away;
wit make come back. Fear make warrior fool, as well as young girl."
Here June laughed, as her sex is apt to laugh when anything
particularly ludicrous crosses their youthful fancies.
"I feel uneasy, June; and wish you yourself would go up again to
the roof and look out upon the island, to make certain that nothing
is plotting against us; you know the signs of what your people
intend to do better than I."
"June go, Lily wish; but very well know that Indian sleep; wait for
'e fader. Warrior eat, drink, sleep, all time, when don't fight
and go on war-trail. Den never sleep, eat, drink -- never feel.
Warrior sleep now."
"God send it may be so! but go up, dear June, and look well about
you. Danger may come when we least expect it."
June arose, and prepared to ascend to the roof; but she paused, with
her foot on the first round of the ladder. Mabel's heart beat so
violently that she was fearful its throbs would be heard; and she
fancied that some gleamings of her real intentions had crossed
the mind of her friend. She was right in part, the Indian woman
having actually stopped to consider whether there was any indiscretion
in what she was about to do. At first the suspicion that Mabel
intended to escape flashed across her mind; then she rejected it,
on the ground that the pale-face had no means of getting off the
island, and that the blockhouse was much the most secure place she
could find. The next thought was, that Mabel had detected some
sign of the near approach of her father. This idea, too, lasted
but an instant; for June entertained some such opinion of her
companion's ability to understand symptoms of this sort -- symptoms
that had escaped her own sagacity -- as a woman of high fashion
entertains of the accomplishments of her maid. Nothing else in
the same way offering, she began slowly to mount the ladder.
Just as she reached the upper floor, a lucky thought suggested
itself to our heroine; and, by expressing it in a hurried but natural
manner, she gained a great advantage in executing her projected
"I will go down," she said, "and listen by the door, June, while
you are on the roof; and we will thus be on our guard, at the same
time, above and below."
Though June thought this savored of unnecessary caution, well knowing
that no one could enter the building unless aided from within,
nor any serious danger menace them from the exterior without giving
sufficient warning, she attributed the proposition to Mabel's
ignorance and alarm; and, as it was made apparently with frankness,
it was received without distrust. By these means our heroine was
enabled to descend to the door, as her friend ascended to the
roof. The distance between the two was now too great to admit
of conversation; and for three or four minutes one was occupied
in looking about her as well as the darkness would allow, and the
other in listening at the door with as much intentness as if all
her senses were absorbed in the single faculty of hearing.
June discovered nothing from her elevated stand; the obscurity
indeed almost forbade the hope of such a result; but it would not
be easy to describe the sensation with which Mabel thought she
perceived a slight and guarded push against the door. Fearful that
all might not be as she wished, and anxious to let Chingachgook
know that she was near, she began, though in tremulous and low
notes, to sing. So profound was the stillness of the moment that
the sound of the unsteady warbling ascended to the roof and in a
minute June began to descend. A slight tap at the door was heard
immediately after. Mabel was bewildered, for there was no time
to lose. Hope proved stronger than fear; and with unsteady hands
she commenced unbarring the door. The moccasin of June was heard
on the floor above her when only a single bar was turned. The second
was released as her form reached half-way down the lower ladder.
"What you do?" exclaimed June angrily. "Run away - mad -- leave
blockhouse; blockhouse good." The hands of both were on the last
bar, and it would have been cleared from the fastenings but for
a vigorous shove from without, which jammed the wood. A short
struggle ensued, though both were disinclined to violence. June
would probably have prevailed, had not another and a more vigorous
push from without forced the bar past the trifling impediment that
held it, when the door opened. The form of a man was seen to enter;
and both the females rushed up the ladder, as if equally afraid
of the consequences. The stranger secured the door; and, first
examining the lower room with great care, he cautiously ascended
the ladder. June, as soon as it became dark, had closed the loops
of the principal floor, and lighted a candle. By means of this
dim taper, then, the two females stood in expectation, waiting to
ascertain the person of their visitor, whose wary ascent of the
ladder was distinctly audible, though sufficiently deliberate. It
would not be easy to say which was the more astonished on finding,
when the stranger had got through the trap, that Pathfinder stood
"God be praised!" Mabel exclaimed, for the idea that the blockhouse
would be impregnable with such a garrison at once crossed her mind.
"O Pathfinder! what has become of my father?"
"The Sergeant is safe as yet, and victorious; though it is not in
the gift of man to say what will be the ind of it. Is not that
the wife of Arrowhead skulking in the corner there?"
"Speak not of her reproachfully, Pathfinder; I owe her my life, my
present security. Tell me what has happened to my father's party
-- why you are here; and I will relate all the horrible events that
have passed upon this island."
"Few words will do the last, Mabel; for one used to Indian devilries
needs but little explanations on such a subject. Everything turned
out as we had hoped with the expedition; for the Sarpent was on
the look-out, and he met us with all the information heart could
desire. We ambushed three boats, druv' the Frenchers out of them,
got possession and sunk them, according to orders, in the deepest
part of the channel; and the savages of Upper Canada will fare
badly for Indian goods this winter. Both powder and ball, too,
will be scarcer among them than keen hunters and active warriors
may relish. We did not lose a man or have even a skin barked; nor
do I think the inimy suffered to speak of. In short, Mabel, it
has been just such an expedition as Lundie likes; much harm to the
foe, and little harm to ourselves."
"Ah, Pathfinder, I fear, when Major Duncan comes to hear the whole
of the sad tale, he will find reason to regret he ever undertook
"I know what you mean, I know what you mean; but by telling my story
straight you will understand it better. As soon as the Sergeant
found himself successful, he sent me and the Sarpent off in canoes
to tell you how matters had turned out, and he is following with
the two boats, which, being so much heavier, cannot arrive before
morning. I parted from Chingachgook this forenoon, it being agreed
that he should come up one set of channels, and I another, to see
that the path was clear. I've not seen the chief since."
Mabel now explained the manner in which she had discovered the Mohican,
and her expectation that he would yet come to the blockhouse.
"Not he, not he! A regular scout will never get behind walls or
logs so long as he can keep the open air and find useful employment.
I should not have come myself, Mabel, but I promised the Sergeant
to comfort you and to look after your safety. Ah's me! I reconnoitred
the island with a heavy heart this forenoon; and there was a bitter
hour when I fancied you might be among the slain."
"By what lucky accident were you prevented from paddling up boldly
to the island and from falling into the hands of the enemy?"
"By such an accident, Mabel, as Providence employs to tell the hound
where to find the deer and the deer how to throw off the hound.
No, no! these artifices and devilries with dead bodies may deceive
the soldiers of the 55th and the king's officers; but they are
all lost upon men who have passed their days in the forest. I came
down the channel in face of the pretended fisherman; and, though
the riptyles have set up the poor wretch with art, it was not
ingenious enough to take in a practysed eye. The rod was held too
high, for the 55th have learned to fish at Oswego, if they never
knew how before; and then the man was too quiet for one who got
neither prey nor bite. But we never come in upon a post blindly;
and I have lain outside a garrison a whole night, because they had
changed their sentries and their mode of standing guard. Neither
the Sarpent nor myself would be likely to be taken in by these
clumsy contrivances, which were most probably intended for the
Scotch, who are cunning enough in some particulars, though anything
but witches when Indian sarcumventions are in the wind."
"Do you think my father and his men may yet be deceived?" said
"Not if I can prevent it, Mabel. You say the Sarpent is on the
look-out too; so there is a double chance of our succeeding in
letting him know his danger; though it is by no means sartain by
which channel the party may come."
"Pathfinder," said our heroine solemnly, for the frightful scenes
she had witnessed had clothed death with unusual horrors, --
"Pathfinder, you have professed love for me, a wish to make me your
"I did ventur' to speak on that subject, Mabel, and the Sergeant
has even lately said that you are kindly disposed; but I am not a
man to persecute the thing I love."
"Hear me, Pathfinder, I respect you, honor you, revere you; save
my father from this dreadful death, and I can worship you. Here
is my hand, as a solemn pledge for my faith, when you come to claim
"Bless you, bless you, Mabel; this is more than I desarve - more,
I fear, than I shall know how to profit by as I ought. It was
not wanting, however, to make me sarve the Sergeant. We are old
comrades, and owe each other a life; though I fear me, Mabel, being
a father's comrade is not always the best recommendation with a
"You want no other recommendation than your own acts -- your
courage, your fidelity. All that you do and say, Pathfinder, my
reason approves, and the heart will, nay, it _shall_ follow."
"This is a happiness I little expected this night; but we are
in God's hands, and He will protect us in His own way. These are
sweet words, Mabel; but they were not wanting to make me do all
that man can do in the present circumstances; they will not lessen
my endeavors, neither."
"Now we understand each other, Pathfinder," Mabel added hoarsely,
"let us not lose one of the precious moments, which may be of
incalculable value. Can we not get into your canoe and go and
meet my father?"
"That is not the course I advise. I don't know by which channel the
Sergeant will come, and there are twenty; rely on it, the Sarpent
will be winding his way through them all. No, no! my advice is
to remain here. The logs of this blockhouse are still green, and
it will not be easy to set them on fire; and I can make good the
place, bating a burning, ag'in a tribe. The Iroquois nation cannot
dislodge me from this fortress, so long as we can keep the flames
off it. The Sergeant is now 'camped on some island, and will not
come in until morning. If we hold the block, we can give him timely
warning, by firing rifles, for instance; and should he determine
to attack the savages, as a man of his temper will be very likely
to do, the possession of this building will be of great account in
the affair. No, no! my judgment says remain, if the object be to
sarve the Sergeant, though escape for our two selves will be no
very difficult matter."
"Stay," murmured Mabel, "stay, for God's sake, Pathfinder! Anything,
everything to save my father!"
"Yes, that is natur'. I am glad to hear you say this, Mabel, for
I own a wish to see the Sergeant fairly supported. As the matter
now stands, he has gained himself credit; and, could he once
drive off these miscreants, and make an honorable retreat, laying
the huts and block in ashes, no doubt, Lundie would remember it
and sarve him accordingly. Yes, yes, Mabel, we must not only save
the Sergeant's life, but we must save his reputation."
"No blame can rest on my father on account of the surprise of this
"There's no telling, there's no telling; military glory is a most
unsartain thing. I've seen the Delawares routed, when they desarved
more credit than at other times when they've carried the day. A
man is wrong to set his head on success of any sort, and worst of
all on success in war. I know little of the settlements, or of
the notions that men hold in them; but up hereaway even the Indians
rate a warrior's character according to his luck. The principal
thing with a soldier is never to be whipt; nor do I think mankind
stops long to consider how the day was won or lost. For my part,
Mabel, I make it a rule when facing the inimy to give him as good
as I can send, and to try to be moderate after a defeat, little need
be said on that score, as a flogging is one of the most humbling
things in natur'. The parsons preach about humility in the garrison;
but if humility would make Christians, the king's troops ought to
be saints, for they've done little as yet this war but take lessons
from the French, beginning at Fort du Quesne and ending at Ty."
"My father could not have suspected that the position of the island
was known to the enemy," resumed Mabel, whose thoughts were running
on the probable effect of the recent events on the Sergeant.
"That is true; nor do I well see how the Frenchers found it out.
The spot is well chosen, and it is not an easy matter, even for
one who has travelled the road to and from it, to find it again.
There has been treachery, I fear; yes, yes, there must have been
"Oh, Pathfinder! can this be?"
"Nothing is easier, Mabel, for treachery comes as nat'ral to some
men as eating. Now when I find a man all fair words I look close
to his deeds; for when the heart is right, and really intends to
do good, it is generally satisfied to let the conduct speak instead
of the tongue."
"Jasper Western is not one of these," said Mabel impetuously. "No
youth can be more sincere in his manner, or less apt to make the
tongue act for the head."
"Jasper Western! tongue and heart are both right with that lad,
depend on it, Mabel; and the notion taken up by Lundie, and the
Quartermaster, and the Sergeant, and your uncle too, is as wrong
as it would be to think that the sun shone by night and the stars
shone by day. No, no; I'll answer for Eau-douce's honesty with my
own scalp, or, at need, with my own rifle."
"Bless you, bless you, Pathfinder!" exclaimed Mabel, extending her
own hand and pressing the iron fingers of her companion, under a
state of feeling that far surpassed her own consciousness of its
strength. "You are all that is generous, all that is noble! God
will reward you for it."
"Ah, Mabel, I fear me, if this be true, I should not covet such
a wife as yourself; but would leave you to be sued for by some
gentleman of the garrison, as your desarts require."
"We will not talk of this any more to-night," Mabel answered in a
voice so smothered as to seem nearly choked. "We must think less
of ourselves just now, Pathfinder, and more of our friends. But
I rejoice from my soul that you believe Jasper innocent. Now let
us talk of other things -- ought we not to release June?"
"I've been thinking about the woman; for it will not be safe to
shut our eyes and leave hers open, on this side of the blockhouse
door. If we put her in the upper room, and take away the ladder,
she'll be a prisoner at least."
"I cannot treat one thus who has saved my life. It would be better
to let her depart, for I think she is too much my friend to do
anything to harm me."
"You do not know the race, Mabel, you do not know the race. It's
true she's not a full-blooded Mingo, but she consorts with the
vagabonds, and must have larned some of their tricks. What is
"It sounds like oars; some boat is passing through the channel."
Pathfinder closed the trap that led to the lower room, to prevent
June from escaping, extinguished the candle, and went hastily to
a loop, Mabel looking over his shoulder in breathless curiosity.
These several movements consumed a minute or two; and by the time
the eye of the scout had got a dim view of things without, two
boats had swept past and shot up to the shore, at a spot some fifty
yards beyond the block, where there was a regular landing. The
obscurity prevented more from being seen; and Pathfinder whispered
to Mabel that the new-comers were as likely to be foes as friends,
for he did not think her father could possibly have arrived so
soon. A number of men were now seen to quit the boats, and then
followed three hearty English cheers, leaving no further doubts of
the character of the party. Pathfinder sprang to the trap, raised
it, glided down the ladder, and began to unbar the door, with an
earnestness that proved how critical he deemed the moment. Mabel
had followed, but she rather impeded than aided his exertions,
and but a single bar was turned when a heavy discharge of rifles
was heard. They were still standing in breathless suspense, as
the war-whoop rang in all the surrounding thickets. The door now
opened, and both Pathfinder and Mabel rushed into the open air. All
human sounds had ceased. After listening half a minute, however,
Pathfinder thought he heard a few stifled groans near the boats;
but the wind blew so fresh, and the rustling of the leaves mingled
so much with the murmurs of the passing air, that he was far from
certain. But Mabel was borne away by her feelings, and she rushed
by him, taking the way towards the boats.
"This will not do, Mabel," said the scout in an earnest but low
voice, seizing her by an arm; "this will never do. Sartain death
would follow, and that without sarving any one. We must return to
"Father! my poor, dear, murdered father!" said the girl wildly,
though habitual caution, even at that trying moment, induced her
to speak low. "Pathfinder, if you love me, let me go to my dear
"This will not do, Mabel. It is singular that no one speaks; no
one returns the fire from the boats; and I have left Killdeer in
the block! But of what use would a rifle be when no one is to be
At that moment the quick eye of Pathfinder, which, while he held
Mabel firmly in his grasp, had never ceased to roam over the dim
scene, caught an indistinct view of five or six dark crouching
forms, endeavoring to steal past him, doubtless with the intention
of intercepting the retreat to the blockhouse. Catching up Mabel,
and putting her under an arm, as if she were an infant, the sinewy
frame of the woodsman was exerted to the utmost, and he succeeded
in entering the building. The tramp of his pursuers seemed
immediately at his heels. Dropping his burden, he turned, closed
the door, and had fastened one bar, as a rush against the solid
mass threatened to force it from the hinges. To secure the other
bars was the work of an instant.
Mabel now ascended to the first floor, while Pathfinder remained
as a sentinel below. Our heroine was in that state in which the
body exerts itself, apparently without the control of the mind. She
relighted the candle mechanically, as her companion had desired,
and returned with it below, where he was waiting her reappearance.
No sooner was Pathfinder in possession of the light than he examined
the place carefully, to make certain no one was concealed in the
fortress, ascending to each floor in succession, after assuring
himself that he left no enemy in his rear. The result was the
conviction that the blockhouse now contained no one but Mabel and
himself, June having escaped. When perfectly convinced on this
material point, Pathfinder rejoined our heroine in the principal
apartment, setting down the light and examining the priming of
Killdeer before he seated himself.
"Our worst fears are realized!" said Mabel, to whom the hurry
and excitement of the last five minutes appeared to contain the
emotions of a life. "My beloved father and all his party are slain
"We don't know that -- morning will tell us all. I do not think
the affair so settled as that, or we should hear the vagabond Mingos
yelling out their triumph around the blockhouse. Of one thing we
may be sartain; if the inimy has really got the better, he will
not be long in calling upon us to surrender. The squaw will let
him into the secret of our situation; and, as they well know the
place cannot be fired by daylight, so long as Killdeer continues
to desarve his reputation, you may depend on it that they will
not be backward in making their attempt while darkness helps them."
"Surely I hear a groan!"
"'Tis fancy, Mabel; when the mind gets to be skeary, especially a
woman's mind, she often concaits things that have no reality. I've
known them that imagined there was truth in dreams."
"Nay, I am _not_ deceived; there is surely one below, and in pain."
Pathfinder was compelled to own that the quick senses of Mabel
had not deceived her. He cautioned her, however, to repress her
feelings; and reminded her that the savages were in the practice
of resorting to every artifice to attain their ends, and that
nothing was more likely than that the groans were feigned with a
view to lure them from the blockhouse, or, at least, to induce them
to open the door.
"No, no, no!" said Mabel hurriedly; "there is no artifice in those
sounds, and they come from anguish of body, if not of spirit.
They are fearfully natural."
"Well, we shall soon know whether a friend is there or not. Hide
the light again, Mabel, and I will speak the person from a loop."
Not a little precaution was necessary, according to Pathfinder's
judgment and experience, in performing even this simple act; for
he had known the careless slain by their want of proper attention
to what might have seemed to the ignorant supererogatory means of
safety. He did not place his mouth to the loop itself, but so near
it that he could be heard without raising his voice, and the same
precaution was observed as regards his ear.
"Who is below?" Pathfinder demanded, when his arrangements were
made to his mind. "Is any one in suffering? If a friend, speak
boldly, and depend on our aid."
"Pathfinder!" answered a voice that both Mabel and the person
addressed at once knew to be the Sergeant's, --"Pathfinder, in the
name of God, tell me what has become of my daughter."
"Father, I am here, unhurt, safe! and oh that I could think the
same of you!"
The ejaculation of thanksgiving that followed was distinctly audible
to the two, but it was clearly mingled with, a groan of pain.
"My worst forebodings are realized!" said Mabel with a sort of
desperate calmness. "Pathfinder, my father must be brought within
the block, though we hazard everything to do it."
"This is natur', and it is the law of God. But, Mabel, be calm,
and endivor to be cool. All that can be effected for the Sergeant
by human invention shall be done. I only ask you to be cool."
"I am, I am, Pathfinder. Never in my life was I more calm, more
collected, than at this moment. But remember how perilous may be
every instant; for Heaven's sake, what we do, let us do without
Pathfinder was struck with the firmness of Mabel's tones, and
perhaps he was a little deceived by the forced tranquillity and
self-possession she had assumed. At all events, he did not deem
any further explanations necessary, but descended forthwith, and
began to unbar the door. This delicate process was conducted with
the usual caution, but, as he warily permitted the mass of timber
to swing back on the hinges, he felt a pressure against it, that
had nearly induced him to close it again. But, catching a glimpse
of the cause through the crack, the door was permitted to swing
back, when the body of Sergeant Dunham, which was propped against
it, fell partly within the block. To draw in the legs and secure
the fastenings occupied the Pathfinder but a moment. Then there
existed no obstacle to their giving their undivided care to the
Mabel, in this trying scene, conducted herself with the sort of
unnatural energy that her sex, when aroused, is apt to manifest.
She got the light, administered water to the parched lips of her
father, and assisted Pathfinder in forming a bed of straw for his
body and a pillow of clothes for his head. All this was done
earnestly, and almost without speaking; nor did Mabel shed a tear,
until she heard the blessings of her father murmured on her head
for this tenderness and care. All this time Mabel had merely
conjectured the condition of her parent. Pathfinder, however,
had shown greater attention to the physical danger of the Sergeant.
He had ascertained that a rifle-ball had passed through the body
of the wounded man; and he was sufficiently familiar with injuries
of this nature to be certain that the chances of his surviving the
hurt were very trifling, if any.
Then drink my tears, while yet they fall --
Would that my bosom's blood were balm;
And -- well thou knowest -- I'd shed it all,
To give thy brow one minute's calm.
The eyes of Sergeant Dunham had not ceased to follow the form of
his beautiful daughter from the moment that the light appeared.
He next examined the door of the block, to ascertain its security;
for he was left on the ground below, there being no available
means of raising him to the upper floor. Then he sought the face
of Mabel; for as life wanes fast the affections resume their force,
and we begin to value that most which we feel we are about to lose
"God be praised, my child! you, at least, have escaped their murderous
rifles," he said; for he spoke with strength, and seemingly with
no additional pain. "Give me the history of this sad business,
"Ah's me, Sergeant! It _has_ been sad, as you say. That there has
been treachery, and the position of the island has been betrayed,
is now as sartain, in my judgment, as that we still hold
the block. But -- "
"Major Duncan was right," interrupted Dunham, laying a hand on the
"Not in the sense you mean, Sergeant -- no, not in that p'int
of view; never! At least, not in my opinion. I know that natur'
is weak -- human natur', I mean -- and that we should none of
us vaunt of our gifts, whether red or white; but I do not think a
truer-hearted lad lives on the lines than Jasper Western."
"Bless you! bless you for that, Pathfinder!" burst forth from Mabel's
very soul, while a flood of tears gave vent to emotions that were
so varied while they were so violent. "Oh, bless you, Pathfinder,
bless you! The brave should never desert the brave -- the honest
should sustain the honest."
The father's eyes were fastened anxiously on the face of his daughter,
until the latter hid her countenance in her apron to conceal her
tears; and then they turned with inquiry to the hard features of the
guide. The latter merely wore their usual expression of frankness,
sincerity, and uprightness; and the Sergeant motioned to him to
"You know the spot where the Sarpent and I left you, Sergeant,"
Pathfinder resumed; "and I need say nothing of all that happened
afore. It is now too late to regret what is gone and passed; but
I do think if I had stayed with the boats this would not have come
to pass. Other men may be as good guides -- I make no doubt they
are; but then natur' bestows its gifts, and some must be better
than other some. I daresay poor Gilbert, who took my place, has
suffered for his mistake."
"He fell at my elbow," the Sergeant answered in a low melancholy
tone. "We have, indeed, all suffered for our mistakes."
"No, no, Sergeant, I meant no condemnation on you; for men were
never better commanded than yourn, in this very expedition. I never
beheld a prettier flanking; and the way in which you carried your
own boat up ag'in their howitzer might have teached Lundie himself
The eyes of the Sergeant brightened, and his face even wore
an expression of military triumph, though it was of a degree that
suited the humble sphere in which he had been an actor.
"'Twas not badly done, my friend," said he; "and we carried their
log breastwork by storm."
"'Twas nobly done, Sergeant; though, I fear, when all the truth
comes to be known, it will be found that these vagabonds have got
their howitzer back ag'in. Well, well, put a stout heart upon it,
and try to forget all that is disagreeable, and to remember only
the pleasant part of the matter. That is your truest philosophy;
ay, and truest religion too. If the inimy has got the howitzer
ag'in, they've only got what belonged to them afore, and what we
couldn't help. They haven't got the blockhouse yet, nor are they
likely to get it, unless they fire it in the dark. Well, Sergeant,
the Sarpent and I separated about ten miles down the river; for
we thought it wisest not to come upon even a friendly camp without
the usual caution. What has become of Chingachgook I cannot say;
though Mabel tells me he is not far off, and I make no question
the noble-hearted Delaware is doing his duty, although he is not
now visible to our eyes. Mark my word, Sergeant, before this matter
is over we shall hear of him at some critical time and that in a
discreet and creditable manner. Ah, the Sarpent is indeed a wise
and virtuous chief! and any white man might covet his gifts, though
his rifle is not quite as sure as Killdeer, it must be owned. Well,
as I came near the island I missed the smoke, and that put me on my
guard; for I knew that the men of the 55th were not cunning enough
to conceal that sign, notwithstanding all that has been told them
of its danger. This made me more careful, until I came in sight
of this mockfisherman, as I've just told Mabel; and then the whole
of their infernal arts was as plain before me as if I saw it on a
map. I need not tell you, Sergeant, that my first thoughts were
of Mabel; and that, finding she was in the block, I came here, in
order to live or die in her company."
The father turned a gratified look upon his child; and Mabel felt
a sinking of the heart that at such a moment she could not have
thought possible, when she wished to believe all her concern centred
in the situation of her parent. As the latter held out his hand,
she took it in her own and kissed it. Then, kneeling at his side,
she wept as if her heart would break.
"Mabel," said he steadily, "the will of God must be done. It
is useless to attempt deceiving either you or myself; my time has
come, and it is a consolation to me to die like a soldier. Lundie
will do me justice; for our good friend Pathfinder will tell him
what has been done, and how all came to pass. You do not forget
our last conversation?"
"Nay, father, my time has probably come too," exclaimed Mabel, who
felt just then as if it would be a relief to die. "I cannot hope
to escape; and Pathfinder would do well to leave us, and return to
the garrison with the sad news while he can."
"Mabel Dunham," said Pathfinder reproachfully, though he took
her hand with kindness, "I have not desarved this. I know
I am wild, and uncouth, and ungainly -- "
"Well, well, we'll forget it; you did not mean it, you could not
think it. It is useless now to talk of escaping, for the Sergeant
cannot be moved; and the blockhouse must be defended, cost what it
will. Maybe Lundie will get the tidings of our disaster, and send
a party to raise the siege."
"Pathfinder -- Mabel!" said the Sergeant, who had been writhing
with pain until the cold sweat stood on his forehead; "come both
to my side. You understand each other, I hope?"
"Father, say nothing of that; it is all as you wish."
"Thank God! Give me your hand, Mabel -- here, Pathfinder, take it.
I can do no more than give you the girl in this way. I know you
will make her a kind husband. Do not wait on account of my death;
but there will be a chaplain in the fort before the season closes,
and let him marry you at once. My brother, if living, will wish to
go back to his vessel, and then the child will have no protector.
Mabel, your husband will have been my friend, and that will be
some consolation to you, I hope."
"Trust this matter to me, Sergeant," put in Pathfinder; "leave it
all in my hands as your dying request; and, depend on it, all will
go as it should."
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